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Post #41: Oregon from west to east

June 26, 2020

3 pm on the Oregon coast: Wow, the sun is shining bright—I could live here. Any other time: It’s so dreary I could never live here.

I woke a couple of times during the night wondering what the background noise was. At first I thought I must have awakened in a 737 flying cross country, the wind noise blasting around the outside of the jet. But it was the sound of hundreds of waves all crashing at the same time along the long shallow beach. It was nature’s white noise.

We eventually woke in fog so thick we couldn’t even see the ocean a hundred feet away, only the muted greens of the flowering bushes and stunted pines that surrounded the campsite. Nothing to see here folks. We were packed up from the night before so by 7 am we were underway, north on the coastal highway. I was happy I’d just installed bright new LED fog lights. After a few miles we turned east onto Oregon Highway 20, which we would eventually stay on until the Idaho border. The road twisted and turned as it followed a small river and slowly climbed toward a low pass over the coastal range. For two hours we drove in fog until suddenly the bright blue sky hurt our eyes as we broke through. On the other side of the pass, cows munched contentedly on lush green grass and a few farms dotted the road.

We stopped in Corvalis, Oregon, a charming college town where we stretched our legs with a short walk along the charming downtown streets and found a place for breakfast. 

The town looked charming, but like most small towns these days, most stores were closed and the streets were nearly empty.
This bronze dog statue stood guard near our parking spot downtown
Wisecracks Cafe
. . . . and delicious food

Wisecracks Cafe had a college town vibe (including lots of neon blue, hot pink hair), followed strict Covid guidelines, and served amazing food. We had a decent cell signal and over breakfast we checked the weather.

Our intention was to head north toward Portland, then east along the Columbia River Gorge, through the Coeur de’Alene, Idaho area, and then on to Glacier National Park. Susan had never been to Glacier. As a former Montana resident, I’d been there a number of times and was looking forward to experience all its glory with her. But then we saw the forecast. Heavy rain, wind, and 35-50 degree temperatures had just started battering northern Idaho and Montana. The prediction was for it to continue for at least five days. And the Glacier website informed us that the heavy annual snow on the Going-to-the-Sun Road still was not plowed past Lake McDonald. We both felt some disappointment as Susan used her phone to cancel our hard-to-get Glacier camping reservations. We’d go there sometime, but it didn’t look likely for this trip.  

We discussed where to go instead. Our plans included going to Yellowstone, but our also hard-to-get reservations there were still about a week away. We concluded that in the meantime we would need to go somewhere south of Idaho to avoid bad weather. We’re nothing if not flexible so, without being sure of specifics at all, we decided to head toward northern Utah. 

Our route would take us east following Route 20 through Oregon – the road we started on when we left Newport Oregon at the coast – the entire way to the eastern border of Oregon. From there, we’d cross into Idaho. The drive went through the stunning Willamette National Forest. This lush section of the Cascades range is dotted with rivers, streams, and steep forested mountains.

Mt. Bachelor and the Three Sisters

As we left the national forest, we passed through the just-a-little-too-cute small town of Sisters Oregon, named for three volcanic snow-covered peaks that tower in the near distance. Just south of the three sisters, the even grander volcanic glacier peak, Mt. Bachelor looms near the town of Bend, Oregon. 

The road deposited us in Bend, a booming hip town with the snow-covered mountains nearby. We’d been there before and liked the town so much that we nearly bought a place there a few years ago when we were looking to move out west. But the prices were too high and the winters too cold. When we arrived in Bend, it was obvious from the long stream of slow traffic that the town was still growing fast. We added traffic to the reasons we didn’t pick Bend.

Paddle boarders enjoing a warm day on the Deschutes River
Rafts provided the necessary social distancing
A bridge with colorful flags provided access to trails on both sides of the river

A stretch break was needed and we remembered the pleasant Old Mill section of town along the Deschutes River. We walked along the trails on both sides of the Deschutes River, and watched the parade of floats, stand-up paddle boards, and kayakers. Bend was still filled with people who enjoyed the outdoors and was just as pretty as we remembered. 

Before leaving town, we filled up the truck (the tank would eventually take us all the way to Boise, Idaho).

Eventually, we arrived in Boise and checked into an inexpensive Marriott Residence Inn. After 500 miles of driving, we were looking forward to a shower and a good night’s sleep in air-conditioned comfort. As a bonus, our room had a full refrigerator and freezer so we brought in our Yeti cooler, emptied the contents into the fridge, and refroze the ice packs so they’d last for another three to four days.

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